01/10/13 — Pate chosen for Senate leadership

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Pate chosen for Senate leadership

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 10, 2013 1:46 PM

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Sen. Louis Pate

RALEIGH -- In an effort to improve efficiency, the General Assembly opened its two-year session Wednesday with one day of electing its legislative leaders before adjourning until Jan. 30, when the Legislature is required by statute to open.

Among those leaders chosen was Republican Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, who, in his sixth term in the General Assembly, will serve as the Senate's deputy president pro tempore.

Pate, who represents Wayne, Lenoir and Pitt counties, said this morning he was honored by the nomination.

Pate said he anticipated the leadership position would be quite different from his previous stints chairing committees in the House and Senate, although he joked that, less than 24 hours into the job, he didn't have much experience in the role.

But he does have goals for his position as he serves his second straight term in the Senate.

"My aim is to work with all the senators and help them with, not necessarily committee work in that regard, but personal things," he said, adding that he also would aim to assist Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. "I'll help take some of the load off the president pro tempore."

Looking forward to the General Assembly's lawmaking duties this year, Pate said it promised to be an interesting, but short session, noting that taking care of leadership selections early would allow for work to begin in earnest later this month.

"It's sort of unprecedented to have an organizational meeting first and then to adjourn and come back on the constitutional day that the session begins," he said, pointing out that the formalities of putting together the leadership can take away from productive time. "(In previous years) it seems like you go in for the first day of the session and the committees have not been made, the chairs have not been designated and so everyone hangs around for a few days while those things get taken care of and nothing gets done in those first days."

Pate said the head start will allow for leadership meetings and meetings among committee chairs in advance so that senators and representatives are fully prepared to begin on day one.

"We'll be ready to go on the first day," he said. "We should see bills flowing pretty soon."

Pate will also serve as the chairman of the Senate's health care committee, which he said is charged with handling "the most perplexing group of problems that we have."

"Changes (in health care) can cost tons of money," he said. "That's the biggest challenge -- trying to keep Medicaid from breaking the bank."

In the House, Republican Jimmy Dixon was sworn into his second term as the state representative for District 4, which includes portions of Duplin and Wayne counties.

Dixon was named chairman of the Agriculture Committee while fellow area Republican John Bell was named vice-chairman of that committee. Bell, who is serving his first term of office, represents portions of Wayne, Lenoir, Greene and Craven counties.

Democrat Larry Bell, who represents constituents in Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties, was selected to vice-chair the State Personnel Committee.